Ebola treatment protects primates after symptom onset

An experimental treatment has helped primates fight off the Ebola virus, even after initial symptoms have set in, US researchers announced Wednesday.

The finding could pave the way for therapies against the virus in humans, said scientists, whose work appeared online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, which kills between 25 and 90 percent of humans who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The treatment, called MB-003, is a "cocktail" of antibodies that has protected 100 percent of primates when administered within an hour of Ebola exposure, according to researchers.

Success rates drop thereafter, with two-thirds of primates protected if treated 48 hours after exposure.

The primates that received MB-003 within 104 to 120 hours had a 43 percent recovery rate.

Ebola, one of the world's most virulent diseases, was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. There are fears it could be used in a biological weapons attack.

According to researchers, the virus multiplies quickly, overwhelming the immune system's ability to fight the infection.

MB-003 can inactivate the virus and trigger the immune system to destroy infected cells, the study's authors said.

No side effects have been found in the treated primates.

The treatment is the result of a 10-year collaboration between the US government and private sector.

Funding was provided by US entities including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

"With no vaccines or therapeutics currently licensed to treat or prevent Ebola virus, MB-003 is a promising candidate for continued development," said Larry Zeitlin, who collaborated with the study and is president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego.

Kentucky BioProcessing laboratory manufactures MB-003 in the US city of Owensboro.